A few years ago, I was leaving a job I had worked super hard to build, taking an emerging region for that company from a couple hundred thousand dollars per year to a multi-million-dollar business unit and making an unknown brand become a key player in several markets. It started with me, and then as hard work drove growth, it quickly created 30 more jobs. Careers were built, and lives were positively impacted – given one’s endless days and nights of hard work. I remember, as if it were today, as a jack of all trades, doing everything, from affiliate marketing and partnering with bloggers to boost traffic to selling to monetize the product. All that from the comfort of my home, back when the home office concept was only for companies who couldn’t afford to set up shop in a new region. I was bootstrapping a business at its core, and it succeeded.
Eventually, I was invited to move to America on a work visa to expand the business, I was moving my life for a job. At that time, I had a poor experience with a manager. I would be told that I didn’t deserve to apply for a green card or that my accent, for not being a native speaker, and English grammar “was not a fit”. One day I realized I was working 17 hours per day and that the same manager, curiously a fellow immigrant, was using my work results to shine with the company leadership—a classic case of corporate usurpation. The main issue was how this affected my mental health in a country where you can get fired for any reason, or no reason, with no warning. When you are on a work visa, you are delegating your future to someone else. Some would consider it a trap. Based on my results, I eventually moved teams at the company board’s invitation and to chase my dreams. It was a relief.
Unfortunately, cases like this happen daily. You hear about people doing anything for the American Dream, crossing the border illegally, buying marriages, committing fraud, and even practicing unparalleled things such as Zip Line crossing and so on. In 2022, over 2 million people crossed the US border illegally, as per CPB data, setting a new record. I was fortunate to follow the right path, knowing that doing the right thing never hurts. I knew the right way to apply for a Green Card was to follow the rules.
Even though it might sound like it, based on this column, I don’t hold grudges from my experience, as I learned so much from it, and it led me to where I am today. I am thankful. I also believe that you will face bad and good moments in life, and a journey is made of challenges. It’s how you evolve. Was it painful at the time? 100%. But scars make you strong, and this country was built by self-made people who have been through much more challenging times. My experience brought me a “real-life MBA” in corporate affairs, and the things I learned, bad or good, enabled me to run a successful business today with more than 100 people of diverse backgrounds.
At that time, I had a global role and I was traveling across the world amidst a toxic environment. I was burning out, so I asked to leave the company. I followed my instincts. Day to night, I became a NINJA – no Job, No Income, No Assets – and to add to that, I had no more legal status in the country either.
I left behind a green card sponsorship opportunity and a six-figure salary in a global role in a reputable organization. I couldn’t do it anymore, I was miserable. And I couldn’t be happier to leave. Immediately, I focused my energy on the things that mattered.
I decided to open my own business in a healthier and happier way. It sounds like a cliche, but executing passionately can produce better outcomes. As a consequence, I started earning more. I also self-applied for residence in the US myself without depending on a sponsor. I was hesitant and followed my dreams. I achieved the desired outcome, an approval. It’s always a challenging process, as with any process in life.
Today I am proud to have co-founded two companies, one being a media powerhouse present in 18 countries, impacting 30 million people per month and generating 100+ jobs across the Americas. I am also a legal resident, a father, and a professional who values hard work and a work ethics. Going through this experience made me a better professional and more prepared for life’s adversities.
At one point, I had all the disadvantages required to succeed. Resilience, not allowing the drama to become the main character, and following goals can put someone in an advantageous position when facing headwinds. America is built by hard-working immigrants who encounter all sorts of disadvantages daily. Still, as per the American Immigration Council research, 25% of America’s entrepreneurs are immigrants. Additionally, 44%, or 219 companies in the Fortune 500 list, were founded by immigrants or their children.
In life, nothing is guaranteed. Job titles are only roles people play for a certain period – you are as good as your last results. Through my journey in corporate or as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that constant hard work will always pay off, and America will favor those with the resilience to create value.
* Kaio Philipe is an entrepreneur and executive. He has lived in Brazil, Canada, New Zealand, and the US.
This column does not necessarily reflect the editorial board’s opinion or its owners.